Vote early, vote often, vote Hartley

Before I give my "vote for me" speech, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Kevin VanDam on winning the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title again. That’s four years in a row. He’s one heck of a fisherman and a class act. I wish him the best. (I also wish he’d leave some fish out there for me to catch, but that’s another subject for another day.)

Considering what we see out of some other athletes in other sports, it’s refreshing to see someone like KVD represent professional bass fishing without a hint of scandal or personal misconduct. We can all hold our heads high with him carrying our banner.

Now for the "vote for me" stuff:

As most of you know, the Toyota Trucks All-Star Week is almost upon us. Eight anglers have earned a berth through their fishing; four more will be selected by a vote of the fans. I want — really want — to be one of them.

I’ll be the first to admit that my fishing prowess this year doesn’t justify my going. I didn’t catch very many fish and finished pretty low in the Angler of the Year race. Nevertheless, I want to go. Professional bass fishing is on the verge of big changes. It’ll be an exciting week and I want to be right in the middle of it.

Fishing prowess isn’t all there is to it anyway. Sometimes we (all of us in any and every sport) need a guy who doesn’t always win to be in the hunt for the big prize. I’ve fished tournaments for 30 years all over this great land of ours. I may not catch as many fish as some of the guys, but bass fishing has no more loyal or hardworking representative than me, if I do say so myself.

If I’m voted in, I promise to do my best in Alabama next month. I’ll try to catch fish and win something. More importantly, though, I’ll give positive interviews about fishing and spend time with the fans. I’ll represent professional bass fishing and B.A.S.S. the way it should be represented — with dignity and gratitude. As much as I’d like to win down there, I have to say that promoting the sport is more important.

The voting started yesterday and it’ll continue through July 10. You can vote on Bassmaster.com once a day. One voter will win a fancy Triton/Mercury bass boat package, so the more times you vote the better it’ll be for both of us.

I realize I’m an underdog. Some of the guys have social media stuff and big e-mail lists to help them. It’s like I’m challenging the establishment. But, with your help, we can do it. The guy who just loves to bass fish and is lucky enough to be living the dream can prevail!

Vote early, vote often, vote Hartley.

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